GREENSBORO, N.C. (BP)–Eric Chiz couldn’t wait to get back on the baseball field.
A junior at North Carolina A&T State University and a catcher on the baseball team, Chiz sat out all of last season after undergoing shoulder surgery. He had spent weeks working hard and rehabbing so he could get back to playing the game he loves.
But in January, prior to the season’s start, Chiz got hurt again — this time a torn ulnar collateral ligament in his elbow that will keep him out of action for about a year. Another season gone for the baseball-loving Chiz.
“It felt like my whole world crashed down,” Chiz said about the injury. “It took every bit of my power not to be angry with God. It was something I didn’t understand and I still don’t understand.”
A member of Burkemont Baptist Church in Morgantown, N.C., Chiz attends Life Community Church, a Southern Baptist congregation in Greensboro, N.C., while at college. A men’s ministry at Life Community has helped Chiz work through the “Why?” questions that have dogged him.
He also found encouragement from another source: St. Louis Cardinals starting pitcher Adam Wainwright.
Wainwright, the ace of the St. Louis pitching staff, got his own disturbing news several days ago when tests confirmed that he had torn his UCL, just like Chiz. Wainwright underwent a surgical procedure (known as “Tommy John surgery”) to repair the ligament, but he’ll miss all of the 2011 season.
That news was a significant blow to Wainwright, who finished second in Cy Young Award balloting last year. But in a blog posting, Wainwright wrote about how his identity is first and foremost tied up in who he is as a Christian, and not as a baseball player.
“This injury, the one that makes me miss an entire year of baseball, has allowed me to stop missing what is right in front of me,” Wainwright wrote on Feb. 24. “I am blessed with an amazing God. A God who continues to teach me lessons in mysterious ways. I’m blessed with an amazing family. I’m blessed with friends who really care for me, and I have felt it this week.
“And I’m blessed with teammates that started out as friends and have become family,” he continued. “I believe this to be a test from God, and it has opened my eyes. I believe I can still greatly impact God’s Kingdom from this disabled list.”
Though Wainwright and Chiz have never met, Wainwright’s testimony lifted the injured Chiz, who left a comment in response to Wainwright’s posting.
“When I saw that you had also injured your elbow I thought to myself that if he can stay positive then so can I,” Chiz wrote. “I believe that God uses times like these to test our faith. So thank you for being a brother in Christ and staying positive.”
Chiz, who will undergo his own Tommy John surgery on March 10, continues to wrestle with the reasons for the injury. But he has come to an important conclusion.
“It’s not our plans that matter,” he said. “It’s the plans that God has for us that matter the most.”
Tim Ellsworth is editor of BP Sports, on the Web at www.bpsports.net, and director of news and media relations at Union University in Jackson, Tenn.